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ѯT (1968)
The Dragon Fortress

Reviewed by: dleedlee
Date: 09/09/2004

** possible spoilers **

Pitiless Sword/Mui Ching Gim is a money lusting swordswoman who answers a flyer from Squire Ma seeking able swordsmen to rescue his wife. The wife, Liu Ching Ying, has been kidnapped by the notorious Scar Face Wolf (Shek Kin). Yu Fung/Jade Phoenix, another swordswoman, also shows up at Ma’s house. Pitiless Sword (Suet Nei), reluctant to share the reward money, is overruled by Ma (Tam Bing Man) and the two head off on the mission. Soon afterwards, the pair are joined by Tien Wu, an old friend of Pitiless Sword, and his pal, a rough-edged gambler/swordsman named Lung-Tsi. Yu Fung (Connie Chan Po-Chu) and the gambler (Kenneth Tsang Kong) preceed the other two and along the way Lung-Tsi discovers the two women are step-sisters. In a flashback, the family history is revealed and the source of Pitiless Sword’s obsession for money is explained.

When Lung-Tsi is captured by Scar Face Wolf’s men and jailed at the Dragon Fortress hideout. Yu Fung helps Lung-Tsi escape just as Pitiless Sword and Tien Wu (Cheung Ying Tsoi) arrive. They manage to find Ma’s wife and the five escape to an old temple chased by Ma and his gang. After a fierce fight, Ma is mortally wounded and together with Ching Ying recall their story of how Ho Han Hsing turned into the Scar Face Wolf, became a bandit and she became Ma’s wife. Thus, the true relationship between Scar Face Wolf and Liu Ching Ying is also revealed.

The three swordsmen, excepting Yu Fung, and the wife return to Ma’s to collect their reward. The squire happily pays them and rejoices at the return of his ‘wife’. After the three swordsmen depart, Yu Fung arrives and also claims a reward with which she promptly gives to Ching Ying to bury Scar Face Wolf and advises her to leave Ma.

An excellent performance by all of the cast. Suet Nei as the bitter single-minded sister-in-law is mirrored by Connie Chan as the ever righteous and good sister. Kenneth Tsang Kong is quite dashing as a, at times, Mifune-like, mercenary swordsman who charges by the number sword kills. Shek Kin, this time, is a sympathetic villain who’s more restrained than usual and doesn’t resort to chewing the scenery. Lok Kung appears briefly as Yu Fung’s father, the retired swordsman Magic Sword. Yung Yuk Yi, as ever, the ferocious mother/stepmother. Cheung Ying Tsoi really doesn’t have much to do this go around.

I especially liked the back story of the emnity between the two sisters and how Pitiless Sword was driven to lust for money due her stepmother. That Yu Fung still loved her and tried to protect her during the mission highlights the bonds between the two despite their differences in family status. The twist in the story line midway through the film makes the film rise above standard action fare. And to have Scar Face Wolf a wronged man forced into evil deeds add additional richness to the film. Even Lung-Tsi, the gambler, rejects money from a bad deed in the end shows his change in character. Only Cheung Ying Tsoi’s character has no depth.

There are quite a few impressive sword fights. In the first half, the swordplay seems influenced by the Japanese style, while in the second half it is the more conventional form.

The video is unfortunately marred by being partially cropped from it’s full widescreen. The color is also somewhat faded and the print is briefly badly scratched but neither is as distracting as the cropping.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: mpongpun
Date: 01/10/2003

Scholar Ma Hsing Hui (Tam Bing Man) hires 2 swordswomen, Shang Kuan Yu Fung (Connie Chan) and Shang Kuan Chiu Yung (Suet Nei) aka “The Pitiless Sword”, to travel to a fortress called Tien Lung Hideout to rescue his wife from the evil Scar Faced Wolf (Shih Kien). The two swordswomen also get a couple other hands to help them such as swordsman Chin Tien Wu (Cheung Ying Tsoi) and a gambler, Lung Tai (Kenneth Tsang). The fearsome foursome raid Scar Faced Wolf’s villa, kill him, and then rescue Scholar Ma’s wife. Mission accomplished? Not quite. The foursome finds out some information that Scholar Ma is quite a bastard himself and intend on paying him a visit to settle matters.